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NIAID to Fund New Infectious Diseases Genome Centers

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has funded many efforts to generate genomic data about pathogenic microbes and now it wants to expand its microbial genomics programs by funding the creation of new Genomic Centers for Infectious Diseases.

NIAID plans to use up to $14 million in 2014 to support the launch of two or three of these centers, which will use high-throughput sequencing approaches to study the biology of infectious diseases and will look into the interactions between pathogen and host, according to a new request for applications.

These centers also will pursue comparative genomic analysis into the genetic variation of human pathogen populations and communities, as well as across the human genome to identify genetic associations with observable phenotypes in the pathogens and hosts.

NIAID said it has already made "a significant investment" in pathogen genomics. It also already funds three Genome Sequencing Centers at the J. Craig Venter Institute, the University of Maryland, and the Broad Institute, which comprise the NIAID Genome Sequencing Centers.

It noted that over the past 10 years the genomes of nearly 5,000 microorganisms and invertebrate disease vectors and 15,000 viruses have been sequenced. These include pathogens that cause diseases such as influenza, drug-resistant tuberculosis, dengue fever, and potential agents of bioterrorism like anthrax.

The institute sees this wealth of sequence information as an important resource for the disease research community that could be used to determine how individuals will respond to drugs, treatments, and vaccines.

The new centers funded under the new program will engage in high-throughput sequencing, comparative genomic sequencing, SNP identification, genotyping, and gene expression activities, and also will use and develop methods for applying RNA sequencing and metagenomics approaches. They will focus on the genomes of microorganisms on NIAID's List of Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases.

The expectation is that these centers will develop methods and protocols for use in next-generation sequencing, other genomic technologies, and bioinformatics analyses that will be used by the wider world of infectious diseases research.

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